Galapagos Islands holidays
Prices from £1,515 per person for 3 night Galápagos cruise
Remote, spectacular and utterly unique, the Galápagos Islands are a ‘once in a lifetime’ destination for anyone interested in the natural world. The wonderfully diverse wildlife and dramatic volcanic landscapes exceed expectations, exciting even the most well-travelled visitors. The total lack of fear displayed by the birds and reptiles enables visitors to the Galápagos to see and study nature close up in this unique environment.
In the 16th Century, Spanish seafarers named the islands, “Las Encantadas”; the ‘enchanted or bewitched islands’, as frequent mists seemed to make the islands appear and disappear! Now, the islands are officially named the “Archipielago de Colon”, though more famously known as the Galápagos (Spanish for tortoises). This name was given by a Flemish cartographer, Abraham Ortelius who was inspired by the resident giant tortoises.
However, Charles Darwin is undoubtedly the most famous visitor to Galápagos, and though his stay was brief, just five weeks, his discoveries here inspired his revolutionary theory on the evolution of species. In 1859, Darwin’s ‘The Origin of the Species’ caused major controversy, though earned him the recognition as the man who provided a foundation for the entire structure of modern biology and changed the way man viewed himself and the Natural World.
Holidays In Galapagos Islands
Today, the Galápagos is a UNESCO World Heritage site and 97% of the area is protected as a National Park. Located in the Pacific Ocean, approx 970km (600 miles) off the West coast of Ecuador, there are 19 islands and 107 small islets and rocks which lie astride the Equator and cover an area of approx 8000 square kilometres.
The islands are volcanic and have never been connected with the continent; when first discovered in 1535 they were uninhabited by man and to this day, the wildlife have little fear of man, giving a wonderful and unique experience to the visitor.
At a Glance
- 19 volcanic islands of varying sizes, located along the equator, 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Unique, fearless and sometimes bizarre wildlife including giant tortoises, blue and red- footed boobys, marine iguanas, colonies of sea lions and frigate birds
- Boat cruises of 3, 4 or 7 nights available. Also hotels on some islands
- For a holiday to Galapagos it is advisable to book at least 9-12 months ahead
- The Galápagos Islands tend to be hot with intermittent rain between December and May, cooler and more overcast June to November
- Walking tours available - see Isabela Island Walking tour holiday idea
Read more information about holidays in the Galapagos Islands
Flights from Quito and Guayaquil operate to Baltra and San Cristobal in the Galápagos. All flights to the Galápagos start in Quito and touchdown in Guayaquil en route (return in the same direction).
Please note: there is a 1 hour time difference between Ecuador mainland and Galápagos.
- It is recommended to stay at least 2 nights in Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador prior to flying to Galápagos, particularly when taking a cruise.
- Ecuador has so much variety to offer; the cloud forests, the Amazon, the Andes and colonial cities: Mainland Ecuador and Galápagos is an interesting combination.
- A Galápagos holiday also combines well with Peru
- There are five families of reptiles on the islands: iguanas, lava lizards, geckos, snakes and the giant tortoises. The Galápagos and the Seychelles are the only two island groups in the world which are inhabited by giant tortoises. Of the 27 species of reptiles on the islands, 17 are endemic.
- Half of the resident population of birds is endemic to the Galápagos, but only 5 of the 19 species of sea birds found on the Galápagos are unique to the islands. These are: the Galápagos penguin, the flightless cormorant, the lava gull, the swallowtail gull and the waved albatross. There are 29 species of land birds on the islands, 22 of which are endemic.
- The number of native mammals is limited to two species of bats, a few species of rats and, of course, sea lions and seals.
- The Galápagos are washed by three currents which provide the islands with a rich and diverse underwater fauna. The number of species of fish has been estimated at 306, 17% of which are endemic. 16 species of whales and 7 species of dolphins are also in evidence around the islands.
When to go...
January - The hot / rainy season becomes established. Air and water temperatures rise. ‘Spring’ arrives with the rain and green shoots appear even in arid areas. Land birds nest, land (Isabela)and marine (Espanola) iguana mating season starts. Green turtles start arriving to lay eggs.
February - Flamingos start nesting on Floreana, marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz and Bahama pintail ducks start breeding. Sperm whales and occasionally blue whales may be seen off the west coasts of Isabela and Fernandina.
March - Hot and humid. Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina. Frigate bird mating season starts. Late in the month Waved Albatross arrive on Espanola.
April - Large numbers of Waved Albatross arrive on Espanola and start their noisy courtship ritual. Green turtle and land iguana eggs start to hatch. The last giant tortoises hatch.
May - Waved Albatross on Espanola start laying their eggs. Sea turtles hatching on Espanola, Floreana and Santiago, and marine iguanas hatching on Santa Cruz. Galápagos penguins active around Bartholome. The sea lion and fur seals mating season starts, running from May to December. As there is a 12 month gestation newborn pups also arrive during this period.
June - The garua season starts. The air and sea temperatures start to cool, south-east trade winds return and currents become a bit stronger. The nesting season of the giant tortoises starts. Humpback whales may be seen, as may migrant birds flying north.
July - Breeding season for blue footed boobies on Espanola as albatross fledglings start to be born. Flightless cormorants start courtship rituals on Fernandina. Whales and dolphins may be observed of the west coast of Isabela.
August - Oceans can be choppy. Migrant shore birds start to arrive. Mating season for Galápagos Hawks on Espanola and Santiago.
September - Air and sea temperatures at their lowest. Galápagos Penguins breeding especially around Bartholome although can occur all year. Manta Rays seen off east coast of Isabela. Height of the sea lion mating season, with rival males fighting for control of harems.
October - Weather can be mixed. Giant tortoises continue to lay eggs. Blue footed boobie chicks can be seen on Espanola and Isabela.
November - Water and air temperature begins to rise and the winds decrease. Can be some jellyfish. Good visibility for snorkelling – can be especially fun with sea lion pups.
December - Hot / rainy season begins. Air and sea temperatures continue to rise. The mist clears. Islands begin to green over as the rain falls. Green sea turtles start to mate. Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch.
December - May (hot/wet season)
June - November (overcast/stiff breeze season)
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